These gluten-free brown sugar shortbread cookies are buttery with a hint of caramel and cinnamon for an easy treat that everyone will love.
These slightly sweet, flourless shortbread cookies use only 4 ingredients and come together in just 15 minutes. Eat them warm or cool, as is, or cut them into shapes and dust with sprinkles or powdered sugar for holiday baking fun.
When coming up with an idea for a Christmas cookie, I immediately started to think of ways to make it healthy. I mean, that’s what I do as a registered dietitian. But, the idea of a healthy cookie is an oxymoron if ever there was one. Cookies are made to enjoy!
However, there are a few ways to create a “healthier” cookie. If you care to hear about this during the holiday season, read on. If not, skip on down to the recipe because these brown sugar shortbread beauties are tasty no matter how you slice ’em!
But, let’s talk about…
Healthy Christmas Cookies
You don’t have to change your traditional cookie recipes during the holidays. In fact, I don’t recommend it. But I know many people are looking for gluten-free or dairy-free cookie recipes or ones to work with a special diet.
These brown sugar shortbread cookies are gluten-free but are made with real butter. I swapped in blanched almond flour for regular flour for a nutty and delicious shortbread cookie.Flourless Brown Sugar Shortbread Cookies - ready in 15 minutes! #ChristmasCookies
Ways to make a healthy cookie
- Go all the way with whole grain or no-grain, no-sugar-added cookie. I don’t recommend this. At that point, you’ll have a healthy breakfast bar shaped like a cookie.
- Take a traditional cookie recipe and reduce the sugar and butter and or swap in a whole grain or nut flour.
- Make a traditional cookie in mini form – and vow to eat less of them.
With this recipe, I used a combination. These cookies are only two bites each, use real (good) butter and almond flour as the base.
The almond flour adds a boost of nutrition (protein + fiber) that you just won’t get from regular flour. Plus, it lets you swap some of the butterfat for healthy fats in almonds.
The cookies are surprisingly tender and tasty with only a handful of ingredients and a few minutes prep.
Using almond flour in cookies
You must use almond flour – not almond meal – for this recipe to work. Almond meal is too coarse to hold the cookies together.
Almond flour has a tender crumb that works well in cookies. The high fat content helps keep the cookies moist too. I like to use it in a number of recipes as an even swap for flour such as in these Almond Flour Sugar Cookies that are perfect for decorating.
More healthy holiday cookies
Cooking Light’s 30+ Healthy Christmas Cookies
Healthy Holiday Cookies from Food Network
EatingWell’s Christmas Cookie Recipes
Flourless Brown Sugar Shortbread Cookies
- 1 cup almond flour
- 3 tablespoon good quality butter, softened
- 3 tablespoon brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon sugar (optional for garnish)
- Add the almond flour, butter, brown sugar and vanilla extract to a mixing bowl. Using a rubber spatula (or clean hands), knead the mixture until a moldable dough forms.
- Place it on a piece of plastic wrap and roll into a tube shape about 2 inches in diameter. Refrigerate the dough up to 30 minutes, if needed.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Slice the cookies into ¼ inch rounds and place on the baking sheet about 1 inch apart.OPTIONAL: Sprinkle each cookie with extra brown sugar or cinnamon sugar for a festive touch.
- Bake the cookies 8-10 minutes in the preheated oven. When done, the cookies will be golden brown on the bottom and lightly browned on top. Remove from the oven and cool on the pan about 10 minutes to allow the cookies to set. Place on a wire rack to completely cool before storing.
Tips for almond flour cookies:
- You must use almond flour - not almond meal - for this recipe to work. Almond meal is too coarse and the cookies will likely crumble.
- Use high quality butter. I like Kerrygold brand.
- Keep the butter cold.
Silvia - Garden in the Kitchen
They look heavenly!
Thank you, Silvia!!
Erin @ The Speckled Palate
These shortbread cookies just look and sound divine, Marisa! And the photos are GORGEOUS. I love the idea of making a cookie recipe a little “healthier” and making them smaller. Good ideas!
Thanks so much for participating in this year’s Sweetest Season Cookie Exchange! This has been so much fun and seeing so many gorgeous cookies has me excited for ALL THE BAKING this year!
I love how simple these are – so few ingredients, but such a great flavor. Brown sugar cookies are so delicious!
Thank you, Julie! The simplicity makes this one of my keeper, go to recipes for sure!
Could I use just whole wheat flour instead of almond flour? My son has a nut allergy.
Hi! Thanks for stopping by. I haven’t tried this recipe with whole wheat flour so can’t say. It may work but you’ll likely need to add baking powder and may need to adjust the butter since the almond flour contributes some fat. (I think it would be a different recipe) In any case, I’d suggest using a whole wheat pastry flour so the shortbread is not too heavy or dense.
These cookies look delicious! Definitely pinning to try soon…
Thank you! Please let me know if you make them!
These sound really good. I’ve only baked with almond flour once, but I’m saving this idea for the next time!
I have a huge bag that I’m working through. It’s actually quite versatile and tasty!
4 ingredients and 15 minutes. Awesome! My son is GF so I’m always interested in flourless baked goods. These sound divine!
Definitely, give these a try. I was surprised by how tender they bake up!
These would make a great cookie to hand out to the neighbors!
I agree! They are so easy to make that you can spend time decorating if that’s your sort of thing!
Alina | Cooking Journey Blog
These look gorgeous! Next time I need almond cookie recipe, I will definitely try yours!
Definitely give them a try but these don’t have a pronounced almond flavor – though you’d expect them to. Using blanched almond flour helps. They taste a lot like a caramel-flavored shortbread.
This is such a simple and delicious cookie to add to my Christmas cookie trays!
I’m loving how easy these are!!!
How many carbs per serving?
Hi Sherry. There are 6g carbs per serving. Enjoy!
I was wondering if this recipe would hold up to being a vase for a keto pecan bar?
Or probably a *base… smh
I haven’t tried it but probably yes. You might need a bit more butter and obviously swap the brown sugar for a keto-friendly sweetener. Let us know if you try it!
By far the best healthier cookie I’ve made! I added cinnamon and a little pumpkin pie spice to the cookie batter itself and then sprinkled sugar on top. Deeeeelish!
I’m so happy to hear you enjoyed the cookies. I will be making a batch for the holidays!